Team stocks walleye in Lake NebagamonWalleye stocking efforts in Lake Nebagamon got off to an early start this month when staff from the Red Cliff Hatchery released about 1,000 extended-growth fish on Sept. 12.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Walleye stocking efforts in Lake Nebagamon got off to an early start this month when staff from the Red Cliff Tribal Fish Hatchery released about 1,000 extended-growth walleye on Sept. 12.
Most of the young fish measured 6 to 8 inches, but a few were big enough to raise the eyebrows of the volunteers helping to transport them into the cool water.
“No nets in the lake tonight,” joked Francis Cadotte, a hatchery technician for the Red Cliff Tribal Fish Hatchery.
The fish from the Red Cliff Hatchery are the first of the season to be stocked in Lake Nebagamon, but they won’t be the last.
The Nebagamon Lake Association is now in the second year of a five-year project to increase the walleye population in Lake Nebagamon. The group hopes to improve the lake’s shoreline habitat, stock walleyes each fall and change size regulations for walleye fishing on Lake Nebagamon.
Getting a commitment from Red Cliff Hatchery to join in the effort this year was an added bonus.
“This is a big plus for us getting them involved,” said Willard Keifer, who is co-chair of an effort by the Nebagamon Lake Association to rehabilitate the walleye population.
“We sure appreciate it. I think this is a good thing for publicity for the Red Cliff Hatchery and also for us here with what we’re trying to do in Lake Nebagamon.”
Tony Coletta was among the local residents who stopped by to lend a hand with the stocking on Sept. 12. He often dives in Lake Nebagamon and said the view of the lake underwater is bleak. He described the lake bottom as being “60 to 40 percent desert.”
“That’s why we have to protect the shoreline like we are, because that’s the only place life is,” Coletta said.
The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa raises and stocks fish every year in the lakes its members spear each spring. The band designated one of its three fish rearing ponds for Lake Nebagamon this year and used the other two for restocking Lake Owen.
Chase Meierotto, hatchery manager for the Red Cliff Tribal Fish Hatchery, said the walleye rehabilitation initiative of the Nebagamon Lake Association was one factor that led the Red Cliff Band to choose Lake Nebagamon for walleye stocking this year.
“They have a nice plan set forth and if we can help out with that it’s always great,” Meierotto said. “And it’s great to see other efforts — that we’re not just the only ones that are trying to put fish back.”
The Lake Association is in the process of raising funds to stock 4,000 to 5,000 extended-growth walleyes in October, and 12 to 15 landowners have already committed to designate parts of their shoreline for the Fish Sticks habitat rehabilitation project. Phil Takkunen, a Nebagamon Lake Association board member, said about 2,300 feet of shoreline will be added this year to the 2,000 set aside last year.
The fish provided by the Red Cliff Hatchery give the Lake Association a nice head start in its restocking efforts.
When the hatchery stocks fish each year depends upon the weather, and this year’s early spring pushed up stocking schedules by a few weeks.
“This year ice off was early, so the fish were ready to be speared early and they were spawning earlier; but then that also kind of came into a little bit of a problem where not all of the fish were ready to be spawned out,” Meierotto said.
The Red Cliff staff decides which lakes it will stock for the year two to three weeks before the spearing season begins. Hatchery staff members then collect eggs from walleyes in those lakes and take them to the Red Cliff Tribal Fish Hatchery to be reared.
“It kind of keeps the genetics in check. You’re not mixing everything up,” Meierotto said. “It’s not vital; it’s just a conscientious thing to do I guess.”
Keifer said the Lake Association hopes to partner with the Red Cliff Band again next year, but that decision will not be made until the latest walleye population numbers come out.
The Red Cliff Hatchery provided about 1,000 fish to be stocked on Sept. 12. Some of the biggest fish measured almost 12 inches.
“We didn’t have huge numbers or anything, but we had some of the biggest fish we’ve ever had,” Meierotto said.
The young walleyes were released on the south side of the lake near the old YMCA camp. Keifer said the location was chosen because the water depth reaches 40 to 50 feet not far from shore, and there is a good weed bed to offer shelter for the young fish.
When the Lake Association releases its fish in October they will be placed in other sections of the late. Keifer said three of four different sites will be used to make sure the fish are properly dispersed.